Floating Market on the Mekong River

5/31/11

We took a trip to the Mekong River while we were in Ho Chi Minh City this past weekend to check out the floating market at Cai Be, on one of the river's tributaries. The vendors here sell their goods right off the sides of their boats, sometimes advertising what they're selling by hanging it from a tall pole. It was business as usual for the locals at the floating market, despite a few boatloads of tourists passing by. 

The boats are not just tools of the trade for the vendors of the floating market; they also serve as their homes. They eat, sleep, do laundry, and conduct business from their boats. As you can see in the photo below, sometimes even the family pet lives on board. Right next to the potted garden.
The lady on the smaller boat sells drinks and coffee to people on other boats in the river.
A man doing laundry.
Produce hanging from tall poles on the boats to advertise what that particular vendor is selling. 
In this case, I think those are sweet potatoes.

Here's a little video (only 72 seconds long!) I made with some footage Jeff recorded during our day at the river. You can see how colorful the boats and homes are and you can hear the sounds of the boats as they pass. My favorite part is the dude in the hammock on the back of his boat. 

A Market in the Mekong Delta

5/30/11

We arrived at this market by boat while exploring the Mekong Delta. Mainly for locals, the vendors sold all kinds of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other foods. No souvenirs here. Some of the vendors buy their produce from boats passing by along the river to sell at the market. 

The market was vibrant and buzzing with the sound of vendors chatting amongst themselves. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.
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Happy Birthday Jeff!

5/29/11

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Today is Jeff's birthday!

Last year on his birthday, I surprised him by showing up to his hotel room while he was on a business trip. This year, we're celebrating in one of his most favorite places in the world, Ho Chi Minh City. 

More posts to come, of course!

Ice Cream, Singapore Style

5/26/11

It's hard to walk by an ice cream vendor in Singapore and not buy an ice cream sandwich. Or maybe I just have a weakness for ice cream, especially when it's hot out. You can get a slab of ice cream served on bread, in between two wafer cookies, or in a cup. Surprisingly, ice cream served in bread is actually really good. My favorite way to order it is as a wafer cookie sandwich.

The ice cream vendors are often in areas of Singapore where lots of tourists go, like Orchard Road or the Bugis Street area. Sometimes you can find an ice cream vendor at East Coast Park. You can usually spot them by their big umbrellas.
Pick a flavor, pay a buck or two for your ice cream. Most carts usually have chocolate, red bean, durian, chocolate chip, ripple, blueberry, mango, sweet corn, chocolate mint chip, and ripple flavors. 
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The ice cream uncle pulls a block of ice cream out of his cart and cuts it into a slab.
Chocolate and durian ice cream sandwiches. No one liked the durian flavor!

Red bean and blueberry are favorites. What's your favorite flavor? 

Keep it Classy: a Gold Class Experience at the Movies

5/25/11

On a hot day, going to the movies and sitting in an air conditioned theater is always a great idea. Since going to the movies is something Jeff's dad loves to do, we went to the Golden Village theater at VivoCity and indulged in the Gold Class Experience. We watched the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

Gold Class movie tickets grant you access to a private bar and lounge and a small theater with big, comfy seats. Along with typical movie theater food like popcorn and hot dogs, you can order a meal from a restaurant-style menu and have it delivered right to your seat. The whole experience makes you feel like a VIP.
Jeff getting ready to order from the menu. Our seats were like our own personal cocoons. 
 Popcorn and a bottle of wine, brought to our seats before the movie started.

The seats in this theater have call buttons so you can order food and drinks throughout the entire movie without leaving your seat. The comfy chairs also recline all the way and if you get cold at the movies, you can always use the throw blanket provided for you. Gold Class movie tickets are a bit pricey (SGD28 per ticket), but it's a fun and decadent movie watching experience. 

A Poolside Barbeque

5/24/11

Ten months after moving into our apartment complex in Singapore, Jeff and I jumped into the pool for the first time this past weekend. We booked a poolside grill and had ourselves a barbeque, too. 

It's getting hotter out so we'll be seeking refuge from the sun at the pool more often. 

Black Pepper Crab at East Coast Lagoon Food Village

5/23/11

In case you couldn't tell by the absence of blog posts, we've been kind of busy lately. First we were back in California for a week. Then California came to us: Jeff's cousin Logan came to visit for a weekend, and then Jeff's parents arrived (they'll be here all week). 

Singapore is known for its delicious food and popular dishes, so we had to let our family experience it for themselves. This past weekend we took everyone to eat at our favorite food stall at East Coast Lagoon Food Village, Leng Heng BBQ Seafood (here's a previous post about this hawker center). Our favorite menu items are black pepper crab and chili crab. 
Before: black pepper crab, chili crab, barbeque sting ray, chicken wings, cereal prawns.
After: lots of dirty napkins and everyone in a food coma.
Logan and Jeff in front of our favorite hawker stall, Leng Heng BBQ Seafood. 
This stall was voted one of the top ten hawker stalls in Singapore according to CNNgo a couple days ago.
Jeff's mom and cousin Logan at East Coast Park. 
Sometimes the dogs and I come running on the beach here in the mornings.
Look! A Flying Pigeon

Hiking along the American River

5/18/11

Foresthill Bridge, the tallest bridge in California over the North Fork of the American River. 
You might recognize the bridge from the terrible movie xXx with Vin Diesel.
My sister Fauna and her dog G.G.

One of the best things about living in San Jose is being so close to so many fun things to do in California. One weekend you can go to the beach, another you can go wine tasting in Napa Valley, the next you can go to the mountains.

While Jeff was working this past week in Mountain View, I spent a few days with my Mom and sister (it was a quick business trip for Jeff; we were only in town a week). On one of the days, my sister and I went hiking at the American River Confluence which is only a short drive from their house. It was a beautiful day for a hike and as we climbed higher, the air became cooler. 

To our Singaporean readers, where are the best (if any) hiking spots in Singapore?

The Flying Pigeon

5/8/11

Jeff bought me a bike. Meet my Flying Pigeon, or as I refer to her, The Pidge.
The first time I saw a Flying Pigeon it was rusted and chained to a bike rack somewhere, and it was love at first sight. The classic style above has been in production since the 1950's in Tianjin, China. Old Flying Pigeons can be seen around Singapore, often ridden by uncles and not lanky expats. Part of the reason I got it is because it is a really large bike and I have long legs. And because I'm a sucker for nostalgia and they just don't make things like they used to. 
While reading up on Flying Pigeon history, I discovered an article by Dan Koeppel called "Flight of the Pigeon" about the famous and historic bicycle brand and its origins in Communist China.

According to the article, a Flying Pigeon was "so ingrained in Chinese culture that it remains part of an important tradition known as san zhuan yi xiang, or 'three rounds and a sound.' The term refers to the four items a husband traditionally supplied to his bride: The 'rounds' are the face of a watch, the spindle of a sewing machine and the wheels of a bicycle, and the 'sound' represents a transistor radio."
Only available in black.
Old school rod brakes. Next up: a vintage dynamo headlight.

I've observed that Singapore isn't the most bike-friendly of cities, so let's see how my exploration of the island with The Pidge goes. Any tips on where to buy vintage bike parts and Singapore bike riding in general are always welcome! 

Restaurant Review: Getting Kinki for Lunch

5/6/11

Every so often Jeff and I like to meet up during his lunch break and...hey, this post is about our lunch, what were you thinking it was about?
Last week we were invited for lunch at Kinki Restaurant + Bar, a Japanese restaurant on the second floor of Customs House at Collyer Quay. The cheeky name isn't the only playful aspect of the place. The restaurant serves Japanese food, but some items on the menu have been tweaked with unconventional ingredients. As soon as you walk out of the elevator and into Kinki, you quickly realize this isn't your average Japanese restaurant.
For example, we ate fois gras and scallops sushi--I've never seen fois gras at a Japanese restaurant, but it was so amazingly good that I didn't want to eat anything else for fear of washing the taste away. We also had the Kinki-style Okonomiyaki, a dish normally served on a pancake base. Kinki has tweaked it a bit and serves it on a baguette, making it taste like a Japanese pizza. Their Tai Carpaccio is fresh snapper dressed with...wait for it...truffle oil (it was awesome). We'll most definitely order these the next time we're here.
Fois gras and scallop sushi...I had a dream I was eating this last night. Sadly, it was just a dream.

The restaurant itself has a gritty, urban feel to it much like a cool tattoo parlor. I later learned that this was not a coincidence; the restaurant has a large mural on the floor designed by Chris Garver, a tattoo artist of Miami Ink fame. Graffiti murals from local artists cover the walls and DJ booth as well. Although we came here for lunch, Kinki would be a great stop for dinner and drinks before heading out for a night on the town. If you come on Fridays, there's even a live DJ. 
Chris Garver-designed artwork on the floor of Kinki.

Oh, and here's something you don't here often about restaurants in Singapore: the service was good.

Also worth mentioning is Kinki's ongoing effort to support Japan after the recent earthquakes and tsunami. Kinki has limited edition merchandise available for purchase with proceeds going to the Singapore Red Cross, featuring Kinki, the restaurant's sumo wrestler turned sushi chef mascot. 
Kinki Restaurant + Bar is located at 70 Collyer Quay, #02-02 Customs House, Singapore 049323. For more info, check out www.kinki.com.sg or give 'em a call at  +65 6533 3471.

Thanks to Shasha at FoodNews for inviting us to lunch at Kinki. 
Last three photos courtesy of FoodNews.

Visiting the Istana

5/3/11

Just off Orchard Road is the Istana grounds, a 106-acre estate which houses the President of Singapore's office and official residence. For those reading this back home, I guess you could compare it to the White House. The Istana is also where the Prime Minister works from. Although it is the official residence of the President, no one has actually lived at the Istana since 1959. We saw the President cruise by on a golf cart, though.

The land on which the Istana grounds currently sits used to be a nutmeg plantation. In 1867, the British government of Singapore acquired the land to build a home for the British governor. The building now known as the Istana was once called the Government House. The name was officially changed when Singapore became self-governing in 1959. Istana means palace in Malay.

On five national holidays a year, the Istana opens its gates to the public (Chinese New Year's, Labor Day, National Day, Hari Raya Puasa, and Deepavali). This past Sunday, Labor Day, we went to the Istana to check out the beautiful grounds for ourselves.
The Istana. For SGD2, you can buy a ticket to enter the Istana and see the artwork and many gifts presented to the Prime Minister and President of Singapore. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed.
Many people come to the Istana Open House to check out the grounds and to see inside the Istana, but many also come to take advantage of the impressive backdrops for photos...
...like this guy.
We had no idea this much open space was tucked away off busy Orchard Road. You can see the tall buildings around the estate in some of the photos. The landscaping on the grounds is impressive. For an interesting peek into a day in the life of an Istana gardener, check this link out: Inside the Istana.
The state seal on the main gates to the Istana. 
The two guards at the front gates were subjected to lots of photo-taking from people visiting the Istana. It was pretty comical to watch as people lined up to pose with the guards. They never cracked a smile or said anything to the visitors!

Since we are not Singaporean, we were charged SGD1 to enter the Istana grounds. All money collected from visitor entries is donated to charity. We waited in line for about half an hour to enter, and then had to go through security. 

Not all of the estate is accessible to visitors, but there is plenty to see and enjoy. Apparently one could see out to Indonesia on a clear day from the Istana before all the tall buildings went up in Singapore.

The next chance to visit the Istana is on National Day. If we get a chance to come back, we're definitely bringing a picnic.
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